Listen to our 12 chosen tracks below on Spotify and see if you can spot the connections in the lyrics and themes of each song…
Bob Dylan – Desolation Row
A wordsmith and poet laureate in his own right, Bob Dylan wove Hamlet’s Ophelia into one of his most enduring and impactful protest songs that still holds up to this day.
Rufus Wainwright – A Woman’s Face (Sonnet 20)
Wainwright’s such a big fan of Shakespeare’s work that he based the entirety of his latest album on the Bard’s sonnets. He even roped some famous friends in on the fun too, with Helena Bonham Carter and Carrie Fisher providing guest vocals.
Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet
No prizes for guessing the Shakespeare reference here. Dire Straits 1980 track Romeo and Juliet plays out like a conversation between Shakespeare’s eponymous tragic lovers.
Rush – Limelight
Prog rock trio Rush utilise one of Shakespeare’s most frequently quoted lines from As You Like It to hit home their thoughts on fame, fortune and the pressures of success.
Elvis Costello – Miss Macbeth
Costello plays on guilt and regret with this one-sided jibe at the selfish decisions and deadly actions of Lady Macbeth. Those blood stains can be nightmare to shift…
Titus Andronicus – Titus Andronicus Forever
New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus whip up an angsty and defiant album track with the help of Shakespeare’s infamous and bloody Titus Andronicus, a play they liked so much they named their band after it.
The Smiths – Cemetry Gates
Morrissey’s never been a stranger to poetic prose and with Cemetery Gates he boasts about having read the works of Shakespeare more than a hundred times over. No wonder he’s such a charming man.
Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Folk rock giants Mumford & Sons borrow a line from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for the title of this triumphant track, with the majority of its lyrics relating to characters Benedict and Beatrice.
MC Lars – Hey There Ophelia
Laptop-punk rapper and Stanford University grad MC Lars infuses Hey There Ophelia with numerous references to one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Hamlet. Who said rap couldn’t be high brow?
Elton John – The King Must Die
Namechecking the Bard in his opening gambit, Elton John manages to mix multiple Shakespeare references into The King Must Die, pulling from both Julius Caesar and Hamlet.
Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
Sheffield lad Alex Turner brought Shakespeare back to indie-rock dancefloors and live music arenas with this earworm of a track from the band’s explosive debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Lou Reed – Romeo Had Juliet
Reed kick starts his 1988 album New York with a modern day take on Shakespeare’s tragic romance Romeo and Juliet, placing his two warring families on opposite sides of the bustling city.
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